2017 Ian Constable Lecture
Genome Research Produces New Anti-Malarial Drug Targets
A public lecture by Professor Simon Foote, Director of The John Curtin School of Medical Research at The Australian National University
In a malarial infection, there is a competition between the malaria parasite and the host. If the malarial parasite can reproduce sufficiently rapidly, it can reach a level of parasitaemia that is lethal to the host. However, if its rate of growth is slowed, the host’s adaptive immune response can kill the parasites before the lethal level of parasitaemia kills the host. The host response that controls the growth of malarial parasites has been largely thought to be the adaptive immune response.
This talk will introduce the concept that perhaps as important is the innate immune response as mediated by platelets. Platelets are able to recognise infected red cells, bind to them, activate and kill malarial parasites. This talk will describe the research underpinning this observation. It will also introduce a large-scale ENU screen that has been performed to identify host molecules that are important in the host response to malaria.
Professor Simon Foote is a molecular geneticist. He is the Director of The John Curtin School of Medical Research at The Australian National University. He has been Dean of The Australian School of Medicine at Macquarie University, Director of the Menzies Research Institute at the University of Tasmania and Divisional Head at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Melbourne. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Whitehead Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Professor Foote has a medical degree and PhD from Melbourne University and a DSc from the University of Tasmania. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, the Academy of Technological Science and Engineering and the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Research.
Professor Foote is interested in the genetic control of susceptibility to disease, with particular focus on infectious disease. His laboratory has identified loci governing the response to leishmaniasis and malaria. However the major focus of the laboratory is on trying to identify new drugs to combat malaria. By using the example of natural mutations that affect the red cell and making it difficult for the parasite to grow, his laboratory has found genes, that when mutated, prevent growth of malarial parasites. These genetic changes point the way to the creation of a new type of treatment that will be steadfast against the development of drug resistance. His laboratory is also interested in the genetic susceptibility to other diseases of humans. He is currently working on investigating the reasons that renal disease is so common in Aboriginal communities and in the genetic changes that underpin the familial nature of some of the common cancers.
The Ian Constable Lecture is presented by the Lions Eye Institute and the UWA Institute of Advanced Studies and honours the work of Professor Ian Constable. Professor Constable is recognised as one of the world’s leading ophthalmic surgeons. He was appointed the Lions Foundation Chair of Ophthalmology in 1975.
In 1983 Professor Constable established the Lions Eye Institute (LEI) dedicated to the prevention and treatment of blindness and eye disease. Today the LEI is a not-for- profit centre of excellence that combines world class scientific research into the prevention of blindness with the highest level of eye care delivery, combining the expertise of researchers and ophthalmologists.